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The Shock Doctrine

The Rise of Disaster Capitalism

Naomi Klein


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ISBN10: 0312427999
ISBN13: 9780312427993

Trade Paperback

720 Pages


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Finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize
A San Francisco Chronicle Notable Book of the Year
Winner of the Warwick Prize for Writing
Finalist for the New York Public Library Bernstein Award for Journalism
A Chicago Sun-Times Favorite Book of the Year
A Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year
Winner of the Libris Award for Best Non-fiction Book of the Year (Canada)
Finalist for the National Business Book Award (Canada)
A Guardian and Observer Favorite Book of the Year (UK)

The bestselling author of No Logo shows how the global "free market" has exploited crises and shock for three decades, from Chile to Iraq.

In her groundbreaking reporting over the past few years, Naomi Klein introduced the term "disaster capitalism." Whether covering Baghdad after the U.S. occupation, Sri Lanka in the wake of the tsunami, or New Orleans post-Katrina, she witnessed something remarkably similar. People still reeling from catastrophe were being hit again, this time with economic "shock treatment," losing their land and homes to rapid-fire corporate makeovers.

The Shock Doctrine retells the story of the most dominant ideology of our time, Milton Friedman's free market economic revolution. In contrast to the popular myth of this movement's peaceful global victory, Klein shows how it has exploited moments of shock and extreme violence in order to implement its economic policies in so many parts of the world from Latin America and Eastern Europe to South Africa, Russia, and Iraq.

At the core of disaster capitalism is the use of cataclysmic events to advance radical privatization combined with the privatization of the disaster response itself. Klein argues that by capitalizing on crises, created by nature or war, the disaster capitalism complex now exists as a booming new economy, and is the violent culmination of a radical economic project that has been incubating for fifty years.


Praise for The Shock Doctrine

"The Shock Doctrine is Klein's ambitious look at the economic history of the last 50 years and the rise of free-market fundamentalism around the world . . . Klein provides a rich description of the political machinations required to force unsavory economic policies on resisting countries, and of the human toll. She paints a disturbing portrait of hubris, not only on the part of Friedman but also of those who adopted his doctrines, sometimes to pursue more corporatist objectives. It is striking to be reminded how many of the people involved in the Iraq war were involved earlier in other shameless episodes in United States foreign policy history. She draws a clear line from the torture in Latin America in the 1970s to that at Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo Bay . . . Klein ends on a hopeful note, describing nongovernmental organizations and activists around the world who are trying to make a difference. After 500 pages of The Shock Doctrine, it's clear they have their work cut out for them."—Joseph E. Stiglitz, The New York Times Book Review

"With the publication seven years ago of No Logo, in the wake of the anti-World Trade Organization protests in Seattle, Klein demonstrated that the 'just do it' triumphalism of Nike and other global brands masked serious inequities and injustices. Her new book, The Shock Doctrine, takes the argument an important step further. Neoliberal capitalism, she argues, thrives on catastrophe: Not only are fortunes made from the misfortunes of the masses, but the global dominance of free-market capitalism is built on the infliction of disasters on the world's less fortunate. Klein developed her position over 460-some closely argued pages of text, plus meticulous endnotes . . . The Shock Doctrine is a valuable addition to the corpus of popular books that have attempted to rethink the big ideas of our post-Cold War age."—Shashi Tharoor, The Washington Post

"The connections are daring in journalist Naomi Klein's new book, The Shock Doctrine, but the result is convincing. With a bold and brilliantly conceived thesis, skillfully and cogently threaded through more than 500 pages of trenchant writing, Klein may well have revealed the master narrative of our time. And because the pattern she exposes could govern our future as well, The Shock Doctrine could turn out to be among the most important books of the decade . . . Klein's book is well researched and reported, with a mixture of sharp first-person observations, compelling narrative based on sources and absorbing writing . . . The story she tells so very well is very dark, however—darker than we'd like to believe. In the Harry Potter books, creatures called dementors steal souls and suck all the hope out of the air. Therapy for a dementor encounter is eating chocolate. Though this book is superbly constructed and written, and in that sense is easy to read, the content is relentlessly harrowing. It deserves to be widely read, but readers may want frequent access to a handy supply of chocolate."—William S. Kowinski, San Francisco Chronicle

"Those of us who imagine economists to be mild souls preoccupied with tedious abstractions are in for a shock from The Shock Doctrine, Naomi Klein's stunning, polemic re-examination of the last 30-plus years in the history of free-market capitalism. If we bought the myth of corporate globalization as a benign and bloodless process, Klein has more jolts in store . . . Her research is massive, meticulously documented and laid out in fluid, accessible and intriguing stories . . . The Shock Doctrine is serious and exhilarating with buzz of inside information and revealed connections. The book is ultimately hopeful because, as Klein points out, the shock wears out."—Katherine Dunn, The Oregonian (Portland)

"A work of extraordinary synthesis, The Shock Doctrine is required reading for anyone who wants to know the roots of our current political and economic landscape and prepare for the shocks that await us."—Ronnie Steinberg, Ms.

"In her explosive counterhistory of global capitalism, against the glib accounts offered by mainstream economists and celebrity journalists, Naomi Klein argues that the answer lies in a simple two-step strategy, honed over three decades by an international cabal of freemarket fundamentalists . . . Her new book is a broad survey of its rise as a mode of development imposed on unwilling populations throughout the world. It is also a searing indictment of its practitioners, from the ‘Chicago School juntas' of Friedman acolytes who collaborated with murderous dictators so long as they professed enthusiasm, for free markets, to the international-development organizations that demanded ‘shock therapy' and showed little regard for the welfare of those who absorbed it, to the corrupt officials who profited from what they benignly labeled ‘structural adjustment' . . . The heart of Klein's is her arresting claim that the shock doctrine not only operates according to the logic of torture but also leads to the enactment of brutal repression—including detention, disappearances, torture, and murder—against its critics . . . The Shock Doctrine is a massive, courageous undertaking, and Klein's impassioned critique of the violence that accompanies American economic imperialism is not merely necessary but urgent."—Eric Klinenberg, Bookforum

"Klein explodes the myth that the global free market triumphed democratically. Exposing the thinking, the money trail and the puppet strings behind the world-changing crises and wars of the last four decades, The Shock Doctrine is the gripping story of how America's 'free market' policies have come to dominate the world—through the exploitation of disaster-shocked people and countries."—AlterNet: Best Progressive Books of 2007

"Both admires and detractors agree that the late Nobel Prize laureate Milton Friedman was an extraordinary influential economist. Canadian Klein assails Friedman's free-market percepts as their exponents have applied them to a series of formerly state-dominated economies since 1975, when Friedman persuaded Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet to adopt his program. Klein's entirely negative interpretation of the results of ‘shock therapy' only lays the foundation for her book's thesis: that Friedman's prescriptions require a crisis and are ineluctably bound with the application of violence. This perspective informs her criticism—condemnation, in fact—of reform programs in the last three decades that have aimed to separate that state from the economy in Bolivia, Poland, Russia, China, the UK, and elsewhere. The process of market liberalization, Klein maintains, has created a ‘disaster capitalism complex,' consisting of corporations that thrive on catastrophe; the author particularly arraigns security and logistics firms in the U.S. and Israel. Assiduously researched, energetically expressed, Klein's report bears an ideological perspective that won't leave readers neutral about her economic interpretations."—Gilbert Taylor, Booklist

"The neo-liberal economic policies—privatization, free trade, slashed social spending—that the Chicago School and the economist Milton Friedman have foisted on the world are catastrophic in two senses, argues this vigorous polemic. Because their results are disastrous—depressions, mass poverty, private corporations looting public wealth, by the author's accounting—their means must be cataclysmic, dependent on political upheavals and natural disasters as coercive pretexts for free-market reforms the public would normally reject. Journalist Klein chronicles decades of such disasters, including the Chicago School makeovers launched by South American coups; the corrupt sale of Russia's state economy to oligarchs following the collapse of the Soviet Union; the privatization of New Orleans's public schools after Katrina; and the seizure of wrecked fishing villages by resort developers after the Asian tsunami. Klein's economic and political analyses are not always meticulous. Likening free-market shock therapies to electroshock torture, she conflates every misdeed of right-wing dictatorships with their economic programs and paints a too simplistic picture of the Iraq conflict as a struggle over American-imposed neo-liberalism. Still, much of her critique hits home, as she demonstrates how free-market ideologues welcome, and provoke, the collapse of other people's economies. The result is a powerful populist indictment of economic orthodoxy."—Publishers Weekly

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About the author

Naomi Klein

NAOMI KLEIN is an award-winning journalist, author, and filmmaker. Her first book, the international bestseller No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies, was translated into twenty-eight languages and called "a movement bible" by The New York Times. She writes an internationally syndicated column for The Nation and The Guardian and reported from Iraq for Harper's Magazine. In 2004, she released The Take, a feature documentary about Argentina's occupied factories, co-produced with director Avi Lewis. She is a former Miliband Fellow at the London School of Economics and holds an honorary Doctor of Civil Laws degree from the University of King's College, Nova Scotia.